Sept. 21 (UPI) — Northern Michigan University began the country’s first college program designed to train undergraduate students for the medical marijuana industry this month.
NMU is offering students the chance to earn degrees in medicinal plant chemistry, which will combine “rigorous coursework in chemistry and biology with research and hands on instrumental analysis built into the curriculum to prepare its graduates for a career in the cannabis industry,” according to the school’s website.
Associate chemistry professor Brandon Canfield told WWJ that the time is right for a program like this because the medical marijuana field is “exploding.”
“I mean, you see Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California with full legal recreational marijuana. You’ve got over half the states with medicinal legal, and with all of that has come a huge need for these trained analytical chemists,”he said. “In terms of a four-year regular undergraduate degree, there’s nothing else like this.”
But the students in the program won’t be allowed to handle actual marijuana plants for the time being. Instead, they practice extraction techniques on other plants.
“That process from one plant system to another is not too different,” Canfield said. “But we will be focusing on cannabis chemistry in our classes. We’ll also be looking at the separation and analysis of the cannabinoids and the various terpenes and things present in cannabis and other compounds present in other plants.”
Mark Paulsen, head of the NMU chemistry department, said graduates will be able to pursue careers in pursue careers in herbal supplements, fermentation science, food chemistry and environmental analysis.
“The knowledge and skills acquired are applicable to the cannabis industry, but also translate to the broader field of natural products chemistry and a wide range of professional opportunities,” he said.